"Then Jesus withdrew from them about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down, and prayed, "Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done."' Luke 22:42-42
As our sweet Lord put this verse on my heart, I felt as though my heart was pierced upon reading the words of Jesus. Being fully God, Jesus knew his exact fate, he knew every single gruesome detail of his crucifixion, and the night before his death, Jesus, also being fully man, pleaded with His heavenly Dad, "Father, if its your will, take this crazy suffering away from me..." I think I have said those exact words to my heavenly Dad more in the past 4 days then ever before. On Tuesday, Matt and I met with my Oncologist at Baylor, Dr. O'Shaughnessy. She was absolutely darling! She was 5ft of bubbly, cancer wisdom and optimism. She made us feel comfortable and completely confident in her treatment plans for chemotherapy. I have to admit though, being the unrealistic optimist that I am, I think I had wishfully convinced myself that the surgery had gone so well that Dr. O'Shaughnessy was going to tell me that I didn't really need chemo, or that I would just have to get an 'easier' treatment. I really had no basis upon which to feel this way, I just wanted deeply for the hardest part of this journey to be over. So, as Dr. O'Shaughnessy laid out my chemo treatment plan for the next 6 months, I think I was in a complete daze. I heard every detail she said, I just didn't want her to be talking to me. Matt, of course, was there to hold my hand and soak up every detail; he was as encouraging as ever.
So, basically Dr. O'Shaugnessy is recommending the MD Anderson chemo regiment for young women who wish to maintain their fertility. The whole chemo treatment will last 24 weeks (approximately 6 months) and is broken into 2 parts. The first 12 weeks of chemo, I will be on a 3 drug regiment called FAC (5-Fluorouracil, Adriamycin, Cytoxan). Apparently this is a pretty strong cocktail of drugs, so much so, that I can only receive it once every 3 weeks. It's side effects include hair loss, nausea, extreme fatigue, and a decreased immune system. I will get the FAC regiment 4 times (every 3 weeks = 12 weeks total). The following 12 weeks, I will only get a one drug regiment, called Taxol. Although side effects are similar, they are not near as harsh as the FAC. I will receive the Taxol chemotherapy once a week for 12 weeks. The Taxol apparently is much, much easier than the FAC, just bothersome to have to get it once a week. Then Dr. O'Shaugnessy explained that because my cancer is strongly estrogen based, in order for the chemotherapy to actually work on the cancer cells, we need to significantly reduce the estrogen production in my body, which means temporarily shutting down my ovaries. So, I will have to get Lupron shots every 4 weeks during chemo. Weeks ago, when we met with the Fertility specialist, he had recommended Lupron to help preserve my fertility. However, after he recommended this and we did our research and talked to friends who have had to use Lupron before, the side effects seemed very harsh, and therefore not really worth it. So, at that point, after praying a lot about it, we had decided that we were not going to pursue any fertility options and just completely trust the Lord to grow our family as He wills. Dr. O'Shaugnessy explained that her use of Lupron, was not a suggestion, but a necessary means for the chemotherapy drugs to actually work on the cancer cells and to not have to fight with the estrogen. But it is an extra bonus that it will help preserve my ovaries! Nonetheless, Lupron will cause me to go into a medically induced menopause. Obviously, at 27, my body is not ready to go through menopause, so the side effects can be really hard to deal with. They include hot flashes, irritability, insomnia and weight gain. I am sure Dr. O. could see how overwhelmed I must have looked, so she kept reminding us that they have great drugs now to help combat almost all of these icky side effects. And the great news is, that she is very optimistic that my ovaries are going to function healthily again one day and we will get to have another biological baby! Praise the Lord! Oh, I hope that comes true! After I finish chemotherapy in 6 months, I will have to be on a hormone therapy drug, Tamoxifen, along with continued Lupron, for 5+ years. Dr. O said that if my body responds well to everything, then perhaps after 2 years (post chemotherapy) of taking Tamoxifen and Lurpon, we can pause them and try to get pregnant! Then after having a baby, I will have to get back on them until 5 years is completed. Oh, how that news encouraged my heart! Although, it was never my plan for McKinley and our next biological baby to be at least 5 years apart, I know that God is Sovereign, He knows exactly what He's doing, and I trust that He will give us a baby in His perfect timing. One of my greatest challenges through all this is handing God my dreams, my timing and my control, and really believing with all my heart that his ways are far better than mine. As my sweet hubby reminds me, "Faith that is going to be trusted is faith that is going to be tested."
On our way home home from the Oncologist, Matt and I began to discuss what the next 6 months would look like. All that I could hear was that I was going to be nauseated, irritable, extremely tired yet not able to sleep, have hot flashes, and that I would be bald and fat. (We are still doing our research on whether I am a candidate for the penguin cold caps to preserve my hair, but because of the drugs involved and the length of treatment, it is not looking like a likely possibility.) I was overwhelmed with fear and insecurity, and I just cried out, "Lord, please don't make me do this... I'm not strong enough... I don't want to..." and although I tried to ignore it, I could hear God saying, "I love you Randi; remember, with me all things are possible (Mark 10:27)." On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I didn't want to hear that All things are possible with God, I just wanted God to take this crazy suffering from me. I had taken my eyes and my heart off of the Lord and His perfect plan for my life and I allowed the enemy to fill me with doubt and sorrow. Every time I thought about being sick, grumpy, bald and fat, I would just start crying! Oh, how silly and vain I am! Then in my Bible study, I was reminded of a verse in Isaiah that described Jesus' physical appearance: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him...." (Isaiah 53:2) That just blows my mind, because when I picture Jesus, I think of a really handsome man with brown flowing hair and perfect features. But when the God of the universe created his son in human form, He chose for him to have NO beauty or physical attractiveness. That baffled me. Why wouldn't God have made Jesus the most handsome man to ever walk the earth? And then it hit me, God never wanted His perfect message to be overshadowed by his messenger. My sweet friend reminded me that this summer I had prayed that God would get me out of the way, so when there is less of me, there could me more of Him (John 3:30). I am thankful that God answers prayers. And from the first day of this cancer diagnosis, Matt and I have prayed that God would be glorified through every step of our journey and that people would come to know His great love through our story. So perhaps, by allowing me to lose my physical attractiveness, God is simply not allowing his messenger to distract from His amazing message. I know that the Lord is continually teaching me that true beauty lies within and that He alone is more than enough for my every want and desire. So, precious Lord, I will walk through this valley, if you want me to...
Oh how I love that song! The Sunday after I was diagnosed, Ginny Owens performed that song, "If You Want Me To" at our church. Although Ginny Owens is legally blind, she has helped me to see things so clearly. If you can't see the video on your iPhone, go to YouTube or iTunes and download Ginny Owen's "If You Want Me To," I know it will bless your heart as it has blessed mine. So, today I am claiming God's promises and goodness: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us..." (Ephesians 3:20) How beautiful that the God of the universe that has the power to do more than we could ever ask or imagine, loves us and is working in us and through us. This week, I looked at chemotherapy and its icky side effects as a punishment, but today I realized that I am so blessed to undergo a treatment that will kill all the cancer in me. That in a year, I will be healthy again and perhaps in 2.5 years, we will be able to have another baby. Praise God for that hope! With hope in our Lord, I can and will continue to find joy in this journey. Please pray that I will not take my eyes off of our Lord for a single moment and that I will be joyful regardless of how I look or feel. So, although I have cried out many time this week, "Lord, if you are willing take this cup from me" I now can find so much peace in the end of that verse "but Lord, be not MY will, but YOURS be done." (Luke 22:43)
Sweet friends, I love you dearly and I am so thankful for you. Thank you for reading our blog and being part of our journey. For those who have sent messages telling us what the Lord is doing in your life, Thank you! They have brought us so much joy, as they help to reveal God's goodness through all of this. I pray that you too will find peace knowing that God's will for your life is better than anything you would have planned. I am so thankful that He uses my mess for His message. Will you allow Him to use yours?
Joyfully in HIM~
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; ALL things are possible with God." Mark 10:27